Agatha Christie's Marple: Complete Series 5Overview -
Agatha Christie's Marple stars Julia McKenzie in four thrilling mysteries including the new Pale Horse.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
I just finished reviewing Acorn Media's 'Poirot' movie set, and now it's onto another Agatha Christie detective, Marple. Miss Marple is as unassuming as detectives can get. She's a sweet old lady with a kind disposition and a nose for observation. Really, when you break it down, all the great literary detectives are simply eagle-eyed observers who are able to retain even the smallest details of knowledge and keep it a secret until they can piece it all together for the final reveal.
Miss Marple has a great cover identity. Everyone thinks that she's this sweet old lady who's just tagging around for the fun of it, when really her detective wheels are spinning every time she finds another clue. It's pretty funny when the detective from Scotland Yard in 'The Secret of Chimneys' acknowledges Miss Marple's past of making detectives like himself look bad. As a harmless old lady, Marple is able to see and observe things that normal police detectives couldn't even get close to.
This set comes with four 'Marple' movies (compared to the three movies that came in the 'Poirot' set). They are: 'The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side,' 'The Secret of Chimneys,' 'The Blue Geranium,' and 'The Pale Horse.'
While the 'Marple' movies aren't as enthralling as the 'Poirot' mysteries, they still have their own charm and wit about them. They're easy to sit down and watch while the mystery unravels. I've got to say that I didn't see any of those endings coming quite the way that they did.
'The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side' features a murder mystery that revolves around an American actress who just moved to England. A woman is poisoned at one of her parties, and although Marple is laid up with an ankle sprain, she still manages to solve it while sitting at home listening to second-hand gossip. 'The Secret of Chimneys' piles on the mysteries as Marple sets about not only to find out what happened to a man who was murdered in the present day, but also what bloody past Chimneys Mansion is hiding from twenty years ago. 'The Blue Geranium' focuses in on an ornery, rich lady who is convinced her life is in danger because her horoscopes told her so. Finally, there's the newest 'Marple' movie, filmed in 2010, called 'The Pale Horse.' Miss Marple goes head-to-head with a satanic cult and an entire village that seems like it's up to no good. It almost feels like an off-kilter 'X-Files' episode.
They're all fun, innovative mysteries that take groups of random people and throw them together into a murderous stew and sees what floats to the top. Christie's stories take on the same formula over and over, though, which could get tiresome for some viewers. Miss Marple, like Poirot, is usually invited by one of her close friends and ends up in the middle of a murder mystery. She solves the case using deductive logic and acute observation and then spills out the entire answer to the mystery in a drawn-out monologue at the end. Still, these mysteries are well thought out whodunits, and work in the given formula.
Miss Marple isn't as fun or eccentric as Poirot, which is why these 'Marple' movies lack a sort of pizzazz that can be produced by an unconventional main character. Fans of Christie will love this set, others may find it a breezy way to spend a few hours. I know I did.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Each movie comes packaged in its own Blu-ray case. The cases are housed in a cardboard slipcase for safe keeping. Each movie is housed on a BD-25 Single Layer disc. The four movies total an approximate runtime of 351 minutes.
'Marple' has an almost identical look to the movies in the 'Poirot' series. There's practically no distinguishing them, except that the detail in the 'Marple' movies is a bit more refined and clear. The set is presented in 1080p by Acorn Media, and for the most part looks like its source intended it to look.
The 'Marple' movies were all filmed at different times, but by their look you couldn't tell which one was newer and which one was older. They all look the exact same if you were to compare them. Halos appear around people and objects, just like they did in the 'Poirot' series, mainly because of the diffuse look that has been used. It's more of a dreamy look, like we're watching something from the past (which is true since 'Marple' and 'Poirot' are set around the World Wars).
Clarity seems slightly more refined here, though. Close-ups reveal a good amount of facial and textual detail. Mid-range photography also exhibits a good amount of detail – you can see tiny threads coming off of Marple's worn cardigans and sweaters. Colors are rich, but ever so muted due to the diffused look. Blacks appear a little lighter than they should be, but that could also be chalked up to the way the series was filmed. All in all, a very solid true-to-the-source video presentation, and one that may outshine the 'Poirot' movies only slightly.
'Marple' features an identical sounding PCM 2.0 stereo mix as the 'Poirot' set. Dialogue is clear and concise, but the overall feel of the movies suffers because of the lack of an immersive quality to the sound. The stereo mix sounds like it's talking at you instead of engulfing you in the action.
The movie's soundtrack is as well balanced as it can get as it shares the same two speakers with the dialogue and the sound effects. At times the music becomes overbearing – especially during the menu – and may drown out the other action on screen. LFE is limited. Fidelity is only so-so. It would have been nice to have a 5.1 mix for each of these movies.
There are a few special features provided with this set. The only movies that contain the special features though are 'The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side' and 'The Pale Horse.' The other two discs feature no bonus material.
'The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side' Disc
- Agatha Christie's Garden (SD, 60 min.) — This is an extensive look at Agatha Christie's life, her career, and her patented shy personality. Experts on Christie talk about their relationships with her. They also discuss Greenway House, which was Agatha Christie's hideaway in the woods.
- Greenway Garden History (SD, 3 min.) — The gardens around Greenway House are discussed here by some of the same talking heads that you saw in the "Agatha Christie's Garden" special feature. They specifically cover the gardens around Christie's house and how they were created.
- Remembering Agatha Christie (SD, 3 min.) — More of the same interviewees talk about Christie's personality. Her grandson discusses her kindness towards everyone.
- Agatha's Writing (SD, 3 min.) — Christie's writing is discussed here, as biographers talk about her style of writing and how great she was at tying together a plot.
'The Pail Horse' Disc
- 'The Pale Horse' (1996) (SD, 101 min.) — The 'Marple' episode that was filmed in 1996 is included here. It stars Andy Serkis, Jean Marsh, and Colin Buchanan. It's a pretty different take on the story than the one filmed in 2010.
While I don't think I enjoy the character of Miss Marple as much as the character of Poirot, I think that these mysteries are just as fun and just as entertaining to try and figure out. Christie really could weave together a plot that kept you guessing until the end. At least most of them kept me guessing. I had a fun time with them, and I'm sure you would too. This set comes recommended.
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